Now Hear This: March edition

Jangly indie rock, prickly steel guitar, razor sharp rhymes

Now Hear This is a monthly column that scours the pages of music distributor Bandcamp, looking for new work from local artists that would make fine additions to your digital library. This time around, that includes new music from Lizzy “Cardioid” Ellison and George “Theoretical Planets” Colligan, Mo Troper’s audacious Beatles covers, a live epic from The Decemberists’ vault, and plenty more–just in time for Bandcamp’s next Fee Free First Friday.

The Decemberists, Live Home Library Vol. I

Last year, Portland’s beloved indie-folk dreamers first released a limited vinyl-only edition of this recording of their 2009 live performance of their album The Hazards Of Love, captured at the Royal Oak Theatre in Michigan. They’ve kindly added it to their Bandcamp page so even folks without turntables can enjoy this dense rock opera. 

Johnny Raincloud, Live At Suburbia Studios

When it comes to jangly, wiry indie rock, my penchant is for bands like Johnny Raincloud, bands whose performances ride that very thin line between tightly rehearsed and utterly ramshackle. That is why this recording of them playing live this past January at the titular Portland studio has been in heavy rotation ever since it was released last month. 

Cardioid, Crystal Lattice Lullabies

In the notes for her most recent Cardioid release, Lizzy Ellison states that it represents “the transition and evolution” from 2017’s Parts Dept. (her first solo effort following the breakup of her band Radiation City) and last year’s Fantasy Metal EP. That suggests unformed ideas and rough execution, but neither are the case. These are confident and stirring songs that play in modes of stomping glam, gentle balladry, and ambient bliss. 

Mo Troper, Revolver

There are few artists that I would trust to tackle re-recording a Beatles album in its entirety–but Mo Troper isn’t any ol’ artist. He’s a serious student of pop music and his original music is melodic, heartfelt, and damn fun. And one spin of “Paperback Writer,” the first release from his version of Revolver, should convince anyone of the purity of his intentions here. (Troper is also using this to raise money for Defense Fund PDX and Austin Mutual Aid.)

Philleann, The Wandering Stream

British expat Phil Dale’s debut release is a lovely EP that reveals his deep study of Celtic music and instruments like uilleann pipes and whistles, and his modern sensibilities as a songwriter and performer. These six songs float in that wonderful pool where folk, ambient, pop, and traditional music comfortably flow together. 

Theoretical Planets, Long Term Goals

Led by George Colligan–playing the drums rather than occupying his usual spot behind a piano–Theoretical Planets is also a marvelous showcase for a bevy of Northwest jazz talent like alto saxophonist Nicole McCabe, trumpeter Noah Simpson, and tenor sax player Nicole Glover. It’s the perfect versatile ensemble to handle Colligan’s wide-ranging post-bop compositions. 

Caspar Sonnet, POMP

Musician Caspar Sonnet’s study of the lap steel continues with this collection of improvised instrumentals that explode the possibility of what this traditional instrument can do. Sonnet’s playing is prickly and atonal, feeling as if he’s not coaxing sound out of his instrument so much as forcing it out with rough hands and furrowed brow. 

simarsamuel, A SIMPLE MISUNDERSTANDING

simarsamuel’s music feels like it is flowing in and out of focus, a waking dream, watery melodies crashing up against wobbly beats. The only ballast to be found is in his easygoing flow and razor sharp rhymes that unpack personal foibles and relationship woes with wit and sass. 

Mare Cognitum, Solar Paroxysm 

Although the song titles on the fifth album by this one-man black metal project evoke the cosmic, the lyrical concerns of Mare Cognitum’s Jacob Buczarski are entirely Earthbound. The Portlander has a lot of pent up fury about “the failures of humankind over the past epoch,” with particular streams of bile directed at politicians who fail to protect our planet. Those messages may be hard to unpack amid the screaming vocals and the unrelenting assault of blastbeats and guitars, but the passion and anger are right there on the surface. 

Anton Emery, The Isolation Waltz

The second album by this guitar and banjo expert explores folk sounds–some with Celtic and Scandinavian roots, some born here in the States–with recordings of both original and traditional tunes. It’s a lovely, laidback affair that is a wonderful harbinger for the longer days and warmer temperatures ahead.

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